Louisville is once again atop the ACC, but Florida State sits in position to claim that spot for itself.
With first place in the league at stake, the No. 11 Cardinals aim to avenge an earlier loss to the eighth-ranked Seminoles, who look to run their home winning streak to 22 games on Monday night in Tallahassee, Fla.
Following losses at Georgia Tech and Clemson, Louisville (23-5, 14-3) bounced back last week to drop Syracuse and North Carolina at home by a combined 41 points. Those wins, coupled with Duke’s loss at North Carolina State, helped propel the Cardinals back to the top of the conference — one-half game ahead of both the Blue Devils and Seminoles (23-4, 13-3).
After handling the undermanned Tar Heels 72-55 on Saturday, Louisville knows it’s in for a major test off a quick turnaround. Florida State shot a blistering 55.2 percent and forced 16 turnovers during a 78-65 win at then-No. 7 Louisville on Jan. 4.
The Cardinals, who shot 38.7 percent in that contest, rebounded nicely from the defeat by winning 10 in a row. However, the Seminoles’ last home loss came against then top-ranked Duke 80-78 on Jan. 12, 2019.
“These are the games that you want to play in and you want to be meaningful,” Louisville coach Chris Mack told the school’s official website.
“(Florida State is) going to be a heck of a challenge for our team. … Our guys are well-tuned with what Florida State does on both ends of the floor. It’s just being up to the challenge to be better than them.”
Florida State’s M.J. Walker (10.5 points per game) was better than most while scoring a season-high 23 points and hitting five of his team’s 11 made 3-pointers at Louisville. Walker scored 12 to pace a balanced effort in Saturday’s 67-61 win at North Carolina State, during which the Seminoles used their physical, offensive play to get to the free-throw line 16 more times than the Wolfpack.
“It’s understanding a lot of guys on our team can really drive the ball, big strong bodies,” Walker told The News & Observer. “We’ve got to take advantage of that. We’ve got to make sure we’re aggressive and make plays out there.”
Florida State guard Trent Forrest had a season-high 20 at Louisville, where the visitors went to the line just five times — nine fewer times than the hosts. Forrest has averaged 14.8 points on 56.1 percent shooting with 5.0 assists in the last four games against Cardinals.
Louisville star Jordan Nwora, third in the ACC at 18.2 points per contest, went 11 of 15 from the floor and finished with 32 points against the Seminoles last month. After totaling seven points on 2-of-11 shooting versus Georgia Tech and Clemson, Nwora combined for 35 in the two games since, and went 7 of 15 from the field against North Carolina.
Six-foot-11 teammate Malik Williams has averaged 13.3 points over a six-game stretch, and totaled 22 rebounds in the last two. Cardinals center Steven Enoch, meanwhile, is dealing with an ankle issue but appears set to play Monday.
–Field Level Media